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  • Writer's pictureAnahita Karthik


Updated: Aug 11, 2023

I've already posted a video of me reading out my personal statement/statement of purpose on Instagram, but there were a few people who wanted me to paste a copy of the statement in written form onto a blog post of mine as that would make it a lot more accessible and easier to refer to, so here goes! I'm also linking the video below, so if you're seeing this for the first time and prefer the original video form with captions, you can navigate here:

A few quick things to keep in mind before diving into my post (I mention these in my video as well, at the very start):

  1. I applied to five universities in total: Cambridge, Oxford, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and NYU, and got rejected by all other universities except Cambridge, so technically, the success rate for this iteration is 1/5. Take that however you will, especially if you're tailoring your SOP to fit a particular uni's need, and remember, that while I did get into an incredible university, it was just one of five.

  2. This is not an advice or how-to post, since every statement of purpose varies depending on the college you're applying to, the course you're applying for, whether you're applying as an aspiring undergraduate or a postgraduate, and so on. This is an example post, and I hope that creative writers who are aspiring to apply to Ivy Leagues or Oxbridge will find this helpful.

  3. The course requirements stated that I needed to have a Bachelors degree in either Creative Writing, English Literature, or English Language but I just completed my undergraduate course in Bachelor of Technology (Computer Science), and my mentor made it very clear to me that I needed to have a lot of feathers in my cap with regards to my creative writing endeavours so I could make up for not having a suitable undergraduate degree. I spent my four years as an undergraduate working towards the same, and I'm only grateful it panned out in the end.

  4. While for some universities, the Personal Statement or the Statement of Purpose mean the same thing, for others, either term holds a very different meaning, so please do make sure to check each university's individual guideline.

  5. For your reference, this is the course I applied for:

Anyhoo, here's the personal statement that got me into the University of Cambridge


Catchy opening line: What most people don’t tell you is that ambition and perseverance aren’t nearly enough when it comes to seeing your dreams through—it takes a pinch of stubbornness as well, just enough to push you past that finish line.

Introduction: It was that very stubbornness that brought my five-year-long struggle in the querying and submission trenches to a hearty close. In the month of February this year, after self-publishing two fiction books and querying three, I received two offers of representation from US-based literary agents. By then, I’d collected enough rejections to cater for my breakfasts for a year, and had buried my younger self’s dreams of seeing her books in bookstores one day. But my refusal to give up pushed me through those tedious months of drafting my fifth project, tailoring it to perfection, devouring successful query letter examples by authors like Marissa Meyer, Chloe Gong, and Roshani Chokshi, and sending my queries spiralling into agents’ inboxes. My letters garnered more than thirty requests to see the full manuscript, eventually leading to those offers.

Professional experience: Now, nine months after signing with my agent, Rebecca Podos from Rees Literary Agency, I am working on a short story for Page Street Publishing's upcoming anthology, My Big, Fat, Desi Wedding, which consists of linked stories celebrating the diversity of desi weddings. I write across all age categories and genres in fiction, and simply couldn’t miss the chance to add a paranormal twist to my story when my editor said it could be genre-bending—which is how the narrative ended up interspersing Tamil weddings with vampire myth. I have also been offered a contract by HarperCollins for an IP project I auditioned for in September, Better Catch Up, Krishna Kumar: a Young Adult romantic comedy set in Mumbai, in the vein of works by Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.

For universities requiring a longer SOP, I also pasted in this paragraph, but it was excluded from my SOP for University of Cambridge: I recently published a short story, All I Have Left, through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service, so I could have a sample of my work out before the release of the anthology and IP novel. So far, All I Have Left has occupied the #1 New Release spot on Amazon in multiple categories (Teen & Young Adult Coming Of Age Fiction, Teen & Young Adult Short Reads, LGBTQ+ Short Reads). It has an average rating of 4.70 on Goodreads, 4.9 on Amazon, and 4.25 on Storygraph, accompanied by starred reviews from readers who connected to its depiction of complicated sibling relationships, found family, and the experiences of queer diaspora students.

Volunteer work: Having secured representation after years of effort, especially in a publishing industry that has only now begun prioritising marginalised voices, I wish to make the process less painful for other writers. I regularly conduct query critique giveaways on Twitter, and was recently a mentor for SmoochPit, a volunteer-run mentorship for romance writers of colour. I worked on extensive developmental, line, and copy edits with my mentee from the month of August to November, while simultaneously also tightening her submission package, after which she successfully received two offers of representation.

Extracurriculars: Additionally, I’m also a freelance graphic design artist, and take commissions from authors to make promotional materials such as Twitter headers, profile pictures, and mock covers. It helps me make a decent side income, and is a way for me to take a fun break when either writing or my engineering curriculum gets too overwhelming.

Titles earned/responsibilities: I have always placed confidence in the fact that one of the vital ways to gain respect and initiate positive changes, is by taking up responsibilities in organisations we are affiliated with, and took my Head Girl and Vice Head Girl duties back in school very seriously. Nominations there were linked to our academic performance, participation in extracurricular activities, keenness to lead others, and any assets that promoted our institution positively.

Academic background: People often assume—given the amount of time I’ve spent working towards being published—that I’m pursuing the arts, but I’ve grown up in a country where any stream that isn’t medicine or engineering isn’t as favoured. I have a supportive family, but my teachers and peers would tell me there was “no scope in the arts” and that I should “take up a good, well-paying job, and write as a hobby”. Naturally, I gravitated towards a subject I had a flair for and always scored well in: Computer Science. Thus began the process of applying to engineering and technology schools, and I was confident I’d be able to find time to write when I joined Symbiosis International University to pursue a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science Engineering.

Context for the course switch: For the first three years of my degree, I studied during the day and wrote at night, managing to be among the top twenty in a class of 240, as polite rejections and passes flooded my inbox. But when I signed with my agent, a flame of hope began to burn brighter within me. Being a STEM student has been rewarding, but my peers’ goals have always differed from mine. Where they dream of research and innovation in technology, I dream of signing books with my name embossed on the covers.

Reasons for pursuing this course in this university: I’m applying to your masters course in Creative Writing because I wish to be among a global community of writers who love writing as much as I do…who are seeking critique, advancement, and opportunities at the level that University of Cambridge provides to its students. Learning never truly stops for anyone no matter where they are in their journey, and with the UK being one of the two major epicentres of traditional publishing, I would only be grateful to build upon my skills there by specialising in fiction, and finally dedicating all of my time to writing.

Closing paragraph: Thank you for considering my application, and I hope you deem me worthy of the chance to pursue my masters in your esteemed university.


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